|JK: We setup a phone bank and received over 12,000 calls. So we talked to a lot of people. But the politics were interesting. Some thought we didn’t get enough, and for others, the money wasn’t the most important thing for them. The most important thing for them was that the Mexican government had actually agreed to do something. It’s not often they get acknowledgement from the Mexican government. Then there was this third group of people who had sort of made a living fighting this fight for 20 or 30 years – a bunch of non lawyers and community organizers who had been signing people up and taking money from them in the promise that they’d come to a successful conclusion. Some of these people were quite upset because we effectively put them out of business! The fight was over and it wasn’t going to go on anymore. For these community groups, there reason for existence was to fight these fights, and now it was over and they weren’t too happy about that.
So the campaign at the grassroots level wasn’t too happy about the settlement? That’s very strange cause you’d think the purpose of their work would be to get a settlement and move one.
JK: That’s exactly right. It was sort of an interesting dynamic. They wanted a settlement that they could claim credit for.
Once the settlement went through, was there any hostility directed at you?
JK: There was, there was. There was a guy who threatened to sue us. And you know we tried to blunt that by giving them credit, sharing credit with them. We didn’t want a bunch of people to come to the settlement hearing and objecting to the settlement saying it wasn’t good enough! So we were happy to say that this wasn’t just the lawyers, it was a broad based effort that involved the work and ingenuity of a lot of different people to reach this conclusion.
Was it difficult for you to get approval to be involved in the case since you were from Illinois?
JK: In federal court you can apply for pro hac vice, or special privileges for that particular case. It’s pretty routine and I’ve only had that motion denied once. In the 2000 election I went to Florida as a poll watcher. A Florida state court judge said he wasn’t having any carpetbaggers and he denied my motion (laughs). Otherwise, pro hac vice is pretty perfunctory and easily granted.
Thanks so much for your time!
JK: No problem at all, feel free to call me with any other questions!
“What has been accomplished is impressive. It is a rare case in which U.S. lawyers manage to obtain the agreement of a foreign sovereign to submit to the jurisdiction of U.S. courts in order to pay reparations to residents of the United States and to give them priority in payment over residents of the sovereign's own country. It is likewise rare for the government of Mexico to accord recognition to citizen protests in general or the braceros in particular. This settlement has achieved all of that and against overwhelming odds, given the age of the claims and the procedural and substantive obstacles to proving them on a classwide basis in United States courts.” - Motion and Memorandum in Support of Final Approval of Class Settlement, WL 728225 (N.D.Cal. 2009)